A story about a woman whose conscience finally catches up with her

Written by Lil' Bob

“He knows when you’ve been sleeping.

He knows when you’re awake - so be good

for goodness sake.”

- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Coots/ Gillespie November 1934

I.

By most measures, the greatest distance from the metal mesh-work platform of the Brent Spence Bridge to the surface of the Ohio River was 250 feet.

Funny the things that go through a person’s mind as they plummet to their spectacular but anonymous deaths. This particular factoid reverberated in Emma’s mind as she fell to her death...

In a person’s final moments obscure facts and events come to mind as their life flashes before them.These facts and events burst to mind in tidal waves of information. Information that once lived very quietly in the forgotten dusty corners of the human mind now comes roaring back with crystal clarity.

When these waves strike, all kinds of odd memories bubble up to the surface with them. They come up super-charged, chemically driven by adrenaline, released from heavy mentally imposed barriers that allow people to do things like brush their teeth without remembering the last expression on their dying relatives faces as they choked to death on their own blood and puke.

These natural barriers of the mind exist as a psychological protective mechanism for the rest of the body - as a kind of psychological safeguard to allow a person to function w/out losing their mind.

These barriers broke free inside Emma’s mind, as she plummeted off the Brent Spence Bridge, breaking loose all of her mental flood gates with them.

Time came to a standstill for her as she fell and fell and fell. Seconds to Emma, were perceived by her adrenaline-charged brain as long days without end. In facing the absolute certainty of her own demise a handful of seconds became an entire lifetime.

II.

The act of jumping from the metal railing of the Brent Spence Bridge had indeed broken through the last of Emma’s personal paper thin walls of sanity.

Her fragile mind, already in a weakened state from dark decades of rabid paranoid schizophrenia and pharmaceutically fueled mania, spun and spun.

The probability of suicide (now at full fruition) was always an implied and unspoken threat when dealing with a fragile person like Emma. As a person who used pity and hubris to her own advantage, Emma used this heavily implied fragility of character to emotionally blackmail those around her - for years. People had complied with her with the silent understanding that if Emma didn’t get her way that Emma would be no more.

This made this dire scenario not exactly the most unlikely thing anyone had ever heard of. It was simply her last option.

The gnawing weight of her sham of a life, built on long decades of ugly backstabbing and an uninterrupted line of failed romances and jobs (that totally wasn’t her fault!) had finally, totally and literally pushed her off the edge.

Inside the brittle shell of her dour and prematurely aged frame, Emma was an even weaker and smaller version of herself - one that thrived on betrayal and bloated egomania. However, almost as if to compensate for her physical and mental deformity, her enormous ego dwarfed her much advertised talents and eventually ... her sanity.

As such, any perceived threat to her oh-so-delicately molded ego was an unbearable affront. Therefore, a outrage of the highest and most serious order.

Time and time again she felt compelled to over-react and strike out at the a world that refused to recognize her obvious genius. To Emma, the entire world was a world that continually victimized her personally.

The world did so by not recognising such a talented,  poetic, unique spirit such as Emma’s own. Although she would be hard pressed for any clear demonstration of this belief she could come up with 1,000 irrational excuses for it - if it were nessacary.

Feeling as such, she felt perfectly justified in lashing out at this blind, hurtful world whenever and however she could. Plus, Emma really enjoyed it. The lashing out part that is.

To her paranoid and perpetually wounded ego, nothing was more liberating than seeing a former boyfriend’s home erupt in giant cleansing tongues of flame. To see smoke rise around the ashes of his life. Or even tastier, to see him in a fluorescent orange prison jump suit while his County assigned attorney was very jovially agreeing to a long-term stint in jail.

Needless to say, to Emma, payback really was a bitch.

Unbeknownst to her, even as she fell to her death, was that it was due to this carefully refined and vindictive methodology that she was brought to her own suicide in the present moment.

She was too busy focusing on the one thing that brought her joy to see her own venom for the poison that it really was. The Payback that is.

For her, Payback began as usual, with Emma determined to get her burning vengeance. Emma usually started small beginning with some minor lies. Smirkingly she spreading her favorite brand of completely unsubstantiated rumors of the good old A.I.D.S. virus (Wow! Did people’s faces change when she said it!) and a few rumors about massive “jack stacks” of kiddie porn being in the possession of an ex-boyfriend.

She unflinchingly repeated these lies to as many of her “acquaintances” or co-workers as she felt necessary. Like another woman would show baby pictures or a man would proudly displayed his M.I.T. degree Emma would parade a series of rumors, lies and innuendo to anything that would listen.

It’s important to note, here, that Emma did not consider herself friends with anyone (because they didn’t understand the “real” Emma). So, she had hundreds of acquaintances - the gossip hungry kinds of acquaintances that regularly swallowed any lie or rumor that she tossed their way.

Especially the raw bullshit variety.

Emma suppressed a slight giggle when she thought of how stupid her acquaintances were and how smart she was for not having any friends (because they didn’t understand the “real” her of course).

She vaguely remembered that all the A.I.D.S. and kiddie porn rumors she could tell didn’t seem to phase the newest object of her scorn. He seemed to be above it somehow? So, she stepped up her personal variety of Pay Back. In fact, maybe she’d stepped it up a little too much...

A tinge of regret, alien inside of her usual remorseless self, tore at her.  

Today, the pre-dawn hours were the sole witness to her momentary regret in the middle of her suicide. If anyone else saw her then they must have stood silently watching a tiny paper doll falling and falling.

The early morning grey sky was broken in the distant horizon by jagged streaks of red and orange. These streaks gouged themselves in thin cracks along the surface of low lying shelves of clouds. In between this airy expanse of earth, sky and water Emma hurtled.

From below the metallic framework bridge and the icy, brackish water was a tiny speck. One barely visible speck fell through the emptiness like a small, discarded paper doll.

The tiny doll figure, carefully folded and unfolded in the darkness. It’s tiny doll arms waved wildy, as if trying to back peddle in the face of gravity itself. The doll plummeted towards the cold, inevitable embrace of death, anyway - it’s flapping arms seeming more ridiculous with each passing foot it fell.

“It’s over.”

 It’s finally over.” the tiny doll that was Emma said.

The paper doll quit struggling. With it’s small unsteady arms reaching out the doll made a perfect gesture of acceptance falling Christlike face first.

Emma clasped her eyes shut to complete the gesture but the velocity of her fall seemed to lurch and slow. Was she dead? Had she hit the water’s surface already?

In her fragile mind’s eye she had become almost weightless. Before she could enjoy this sensation her mind, already working overtime with stress, was quickly flooded with a long list of activities associated with getting her Pay Back.

She had set out to erase these inescapable sins so they would never dare to puncture her consciousness again - not confront them! She never wanted to face the past again! What was going on?

She lept wanting to be free and now she was caught. Caught in mid-air. Caught in a city that had at last caught her in her own lies.

Not that this city lacked in her particular brand of low-life (another factoid she had a hard time reconciling). But in just a few moments there would be one less sewer rat crawling around a city sewer over-flowing with sewer rats.

III.

In the confusion of these moments, as Emma hurtled blindly to her death, a chemical reaction began to reach it’s peak in her mind. A combination of epinephrine (aka to most as adrenaline) and sheer animal panic had halted Emma’s perception of time altogether.

She felt suspended in mid-air as her mind was overwhelmed with a play-by-play of ever foul, under-handed thing she ever did.

What should have been a quick release, a descent of two to three seconds, was stretched into long, aching hours without end. A dull pressure filled her head, loosing the stones that had for so long made up her mental dam. A dam, like anyone else, that she had used to hide from the painful, stinking reality of her existence.

Each moment, a deep gash in her psyche began to spill out more of the wrongs that she was inescapably aware of committing. Some of these tears poured out ugly acts of pure hatred: such as the bile-soaked tirades that she was known for. Little reflections of this emaciated 30-year-old woman sneered back at her.

Do I look like that? She thought to herself in sheer wonder.

This jealous, age-scarred and desperate creature was what she was. Even now, in the fleeting moment before her own death she continually tried to find a way to justify her bitter habitation and appearance and could find none.

Stripped of all rationalizations she was, in all reality, heading steadily for the water.

Without warning, a suppressed memory ripped open in her mind as the last of her mental dam crumbled. Emma’s awareness became consumed with flashing red and blue light. And sirens. Yes, there were definitely sirens coming from somewhere. There was a voice, too. A woman’s voice - screaming. As the memory took hold she could clearly hear a high-pitched banshee cry that she almost recognized.

“He did it, your Honor! That’s the man right there.” the voice wailed.

A bony finger hooked over towards a young man in handcuffs and a jumpsuit that appeared two sizes too small.  The man had a puzzled look on his face. He looked - stupefied, as if he was unable to comprehend the proceeding unfolding around him.

“He’s the one, your Honor. It’s him!” came the high-pitched wail.

It was her voice. Her screaming voice!

With some difficulty she recognized her own voice screaming. Her voice was screaming in that little county court room. She realized this with a stab of fear.

“Guilty! Unquestionably guilty!” came another, older female voice.

The memory version of Emma cringed. Over her dour, prematurely aged face a pained wince spread. She tried to shrink into the witness stand where she sat - before she realized that the judge was not referring to her.

Rather, this ringing pronouncement was made over someone else. Another guilty party.

Memory Emma’s eyes gleamed with malicious maniac glee when she deduced who exactly that someone was.

Her already grossly distorted expression of contempt stretched even tighter across her bony face. With a barely restrained naked contempt Memory Emma watched as the man in the jump suit was led away.

These images faded with the sounds of the court room, the smell of people who crowded the back benches and the memory of the innocent man that Emma had just sent to prison for the unforgivable crime of not calling her back after a date.

IV.

A momentary snicker escaped from her face as she remembered the sweet revenge of her Pay Back. But the memory of the small county court room was soon completely gone. Emma was fully in the grip of the present once more - a small paper doll falling from a towering bridge.

It seemed that once fully freed from apprehension and conscious suppression by her eminent death her mind continued to work against her frightfully. Her memories continued to flood her mind, a roulette wheel determined to settle the score with her by landing itself on the worst things she had ever done.

The little spinning wheel in her mind slowed. On the recessed tile of this wheel, a picture of stuffed animal with a ridiculously huge smile stretched over it’s cotton and polyester blend face smiled with it’s perfect unchanging maniac axe killer glee.

“No.” Emma the paper doll whispered to no one.

It was a rarely heard voice. It was her “small voice”. It sounded remarkably similar to the 9-year-old girl she once was.

The river scenery shifted around her. The clouds and water replace with the uncanny ability of a thousand master Stage hands in the blink of an eye. The scene was replaced with a sweetly decorated girl-child’s bedroom. One that she knew all to well and immediately.

Layered in pink and bright floral patterns a teenage Emma was entombed in a large bed buried under a giant comforter. Behind her rows of stuffed animals stood in an airless silence. Their eyes glittered like paraplegic infants with murder on their minds.

The teenage Emma, her face as of yet uncarved by years of self-annihilating rage and constant fear, sat up with a stuffed bear in her arms. An unbelievably passive, doe-eyed expression covered her smooth uncontorted face.

Somewhere in her own distant past, the teenage Emma’s eyes were the only give away that she wasn’t in some sort of partially conscious waking coma. In that beautiful face of an angel where her eyes shifted as if navigating a mental maze- nervous to the point of panic, furiously darting from one section of the room to the next.

Her eyes would dart back from a octagonal night stand next to the soft sarcophagus of her bed. A large silver alarm clock looked back at her. Across it’s face was adorned with a broad, friendly smile that hinted that “this is just between us, right, Jack?” - like the large silver alarm clock was sharing some sort of heavy inside joke with everyone that glanced at it.

As her frantic eyes made another pass over the contents of the child’s bedroom she lived in teenage Emma thought the clock winked back at her.

“You - stop ...that.” she said in the same 9-year-old’s tone. Her voice was slow - drippy and slow with large doses of medication.

On the octagonal night stand, an over grown pile of the same medication stood at a perfectly silent attention inside of dozens of maroon pill bottles that surrounded their trusty, friendly, inside-joking silver general, Alarm-CO Ltd. Corp. 1992.

This medication waited to be commanded by their metallic leader to do battle against the rapid onset of paranoid schizophrenia in teenage Emma’s gradually unhinging mind.

Already the multi-colored blossom of incurable mental illness was unfolding in dark greens and pitch black orchids inside of her childlike mind - ready to come into full bloom as the years dragged on.

It’s a Happy Time all the time! The clock said, by way of the large letters painted in it’s face.

Pondering this statement for releveance Emma’s soft brow furrowed in confusion.

“No... it’s not.” teenage Emma firnly disagreed. Her eyes were at the top of the room now.

“Looking Happy is better than feeling Happy.” A voice she often associated with her own mother (but sometime with other things which she was told lacked the ability to speak said to her).

Teenage Emma focused her meandering vision and looked deep into the sunny, upbeat familiarity of the large silver alarm clock as the her mothers voice drifted on the air around her. As she looked deep into the clock’s friendly grin she, with pained determination, screwed a plastic, cartoon smile across her comatose face - matching the ferocity of the large silver alarm clock’s unbeatable and optimistic glee.

“Emma? Emma, it’s medication time.” her mother’s voice said with the large silver alarm clock’s grinning mouth.

With one hand she felt the large grin pasted on her face on her otherwise blank and expressionless face. Her hand searched over her face the same way a blind man person would explore the facial features of a new friend. The unfamiliar terrain of the pasty flesh and extruded bone of her face felt alien to her.

It could be anyone's face. She thought without much in the way of alarm.

“Emma?” continued her mother, whose face Emma had not yet dared to look at.

Teenage Emma outstretched a hand from her thin pale arms for her medication by way of answer. The hideously upbeat grin never left her face.

Her mother, with a deep sigh, unscrewed the little maroon soldiers helmets fromthe nightstand and poured out their pharmaceutically engineered little organs, tapping one pill at a time into her hand. She pressed a dozen blue and white pills into Emma’s hand.

Teenage Emma’s teeth barely parted and she mechanically shovelled the pills into her mouth. She turned to the frantically happy, large silver alarm clock, and laid back, never looking at her mother.

Like a newly embalmed corpse Emma settled into her cozy coffin and waited for the dozens of anti-psychotics to begin to work their ol’ black magic on her.

V.

After peering at the eroding mess that was once her beautiful, happy daughter Emma’s mother closed the door to the girl-child’s room. She walked a few feet down the hall way and picked up a phone receiver.

Before she could even dial the machine, from outside her door teenage Emma heard her mother’s voice say:

“We’re gonna kill that evil bitch! Cut her up real good, see? Re-e-e-a-a-l-l-l-l nice.” came a strange unfamiliar voice that seemed relished each syllable the way a starving man sucks the last succulent bit of pork off of a pork chop.

This wasn’t her mother’s voice at all. It was hideous. Not her mother’s usual patient and resigned tone.

This voice sounded like Like Edward G. Robinson, right out of a role as a thick-lipped mobster. Edward G spoke with a fast, downtown clip - impatiently firing off every sentence. Punctuating each point home in a burst of spittle.

“We’re gonna rub her out, see-E-E-E? Force feed her full of the old Lead Remedy, see-E-E-E?!” came the evil cartoon voice.

Emma panicked!

“Mbleh-h-H-H!” spat the voice.

There was an actual mob hit in the works for her! How could she escape? Where could she go? Was her mother possiblyin on it?!

The medication, finding itself dissolving in her stomach, began to ease Emma’s disturbed mind. The murderous cartoon voice faded and mellowed.

She took three halting steps towards the kitchen. Her feet fell heavy on the hallway carpet. Each step rose and fell as Emma’s body dragged itself across the linoleum floor covering the kitchen.

As she rasping and panicked her mother stood whispering into the telephone. As Emma awcthed her it seemed like her mother’s voice was the same again. Her patient manner of speaking was back.

“No, Doctor, I don’t think more medication is what we--” came a voice that she knew (this time for sure) had to be her mothers voice.

Emma shifted on her feet unsteadily.

“I’m looking very Happy now, mother.” teenage Emma said to the closed door of her girl-child’s bedroom.

Her mother stopped speaking mid-sentence and cuppedd the phone receiver.

She looked over her shoulder at her her mentally ill daughter - pausing from speaking with an over-worked doctor long enough to say:

“That’s very good, Emma. Looking Happy makes you feel happy.”  

Her tone of voice that was more mechanical than mammal.

“Looking Happy is better than feeling Happy.” Emma repeated through clinched teeth.

The anti-psychotics raced through her circulatory system Emma found her dim awareness disconnecting from the greater world around her.  Her eyes ceased their endless maze running but now she was unable to lift herself from her bed.

And Emma wanted to lift herself upwards to gaze with wonder upon the reassurance of her large silver alarm clock’s terrible grin. Her eyes, once so hyperactive, with the strain of a desperate effort sought out another object to anchor her to this world. But all their was a ratty old bubble-gum ceiling.

When her eyes fluttered down from the ceiling she found that she had a visitor.

Perched precariously but very merrily on her chest, not a child’s chest (as the bedroom would suggest) but the full breasts of a 19-year-old girl that were so completely free of gravity’s tendency to pancake a truly splendid rack, was a new and special visitor.

Her new visitor appeared to be a small stuffed animal - a teddy bear with an infectious robotic grin. She wanted to hug this bear very much. However, the most she could muster was lightly holding the small animal in her numb hands.

The small brown creature felt soft and reassuring. She looked it, her new-found friend who had so suddenly graced her life. As she was appreciating this unexpected surprise she was startled to notice the toy began to twist against her grip.

“Am I holding you too hard?” She thought she inquired.

What Emma really said was something much closer to “Uh-ma-e U-too hah?”

She sounded like a senile New England nursing home patient who’d been hitting the cough syrup too hard.

Comical as it may seem, it was all the of language that teenage Emma was capable of generating under another heavy dose of her medication.

The teddy bear, suddenly filled with a strange life - continued to squirm in her light grasp, turning in her hands, fighting her soft attentions. Her hands finally fell away from the softness of the stirring teddy bear. Emma was very pleased when she noticed that the bear was now standing, all on it’s own, on her mountainous chest.

“Wuh U doin?” she said up to the bear as another one of her robotic grins unfurled across her otherwise blank face.

The bear made no answer instead... it began to dance.

It moved in the easy grace of a chubby, miniaturized Frank Astaire. Each step it took was unbelievably light on the her chest - an improvised, hilly ballroom floor for the performing arts.

Emma tried her best to feign approval and encourage her visitor but the frozen grin, like the rest of her facial features, would not move. Her face was frozen expression of panic with her eyes locked on the ballroom dancing bear.

The floral wallpaper that wrapped around the walls in her girl-child bedroom began to swim, to change, to move in paisley print tides. The walls bloomed in spirals of psychedelic patterns. Shifting swirls kaleidoscopes behind the dancing bear. The medication produced a gentle narcotic effect combining itself with the surreal hallucinations of Emma’s blossoming schizophrenia.

The soulless black eyes of the dancing bear gleamed with a new and sudden menace, fixing her attention on them. Those cold dead eyes seemed to indecently scan the more delicate outlines of teenage Emma’s figure - skipping up her body in measured steps. The cold dead eyes traced the contours of her over-sized girl-child’s nightie and drank in the details of her hips and chest.

The bear appeared to be feeling her up with his eyes.

The dancing bears leer poured over her womanish body unevenly stuffed into a girl’s nightgown. Her large, round breasts pushed gently beneath the white lace fringing and silk material.

With the peppy final step the teddy bear’s dancing halted. It’s tiny face bent into a sinisterly inspired expression. In the background of teenage Emma’s vision, the paisley patterns slowed becoming bloated and swollen - moving like a low tide of rotting fish.

Teenage Emma’s breathing became short and shallow as fear fully gripped her paralyzed body. She heard a voice that sounded like her own murmured something. She couldn’t tell what it was just too jumbled up.

In the present, still falling from the bridge, a tear fell from Emma’s closed eyes.

“No.” she repeated in the present.

“No.”

It was no help to teenage Emma who was firmly and truly fucked up.

Teenage Emma’s eyes never left the now still bear. Her eyes marginally (almost imperceptibly) widened as the small brown bear began to grow in size.

Like a nightmare coming to life, the bear went from the size of a kitten to the size of small dog. The bear kept growing expanding from the size of a large dog to the size of my short man then growing further to the size of a muscle bound pro wrestler size. The transformation was complete when the pro wrestler, still in the shape of smiling teddy bear became a lumbering giant, all while standing on her chest.

The weight of it was unbearable. If slid have she would have slid out from beneath this colossus and ran screaming to her mother.

“Wow, she is really out of it, Brian.” came an unfamiliar voice warbling with adolescent anxiety.

Unable to move, let alone escape, Emma could not look towards the strange voice.

The nervous young man’s voice said something else but she could longer hear it. Instead, all she could hear was a low, deliberate growl that rose of the giant grinning bear on her chest. From it’s the heart of the monster’s shadow she looked up.

The, bear, never breaking eye contact with teenage Emma, opened it’s enormous toothy snout and snarled: “Just shut the fuck up and help me flip her over!”

For the first time in what seemed like hours, those cold dead eyes disengaged from Emma. The giant moved from her chest down to her bedside. Teenage Emma felt her prone body being roughly flipped over. The bear propped on her hands and knees like badly posed Macy’s mannequin.

“She’’ll stop breathing or barf if you don’t.” growled the bear, warning someone she could not see.

Emma felt a strangely familiar pressure between her slender white thighs although she could not place it form anywhere in her 19 years on Earth. Then, to make things worse, a rocking motion began tapping her forehead towards (and then directly against) her headboard, moving a in a slow rhythm.

Wait! Her thoughts begged weakly over the chaos. Wait!

Her bed springs joined the slow motion rhythm and creaked a chorus to match the strange pressure between her thighs as her forehead “thock-thock”’ed against the headboard until it was red and swollen.

Brian was her step-brother’s name! Her mind whispered to her.

Emma’s cloudy thoughts barely registered the revelation. Her thoughts sluggishly churned for a face or a place to associate the name with.

Her head slapped the head board over and over but she felt no pain.

“Thock-thock.” Announced her head as it repeatedly struck the headboard.

San Diego! Was that important? She thought nearly oblivious to everything around her. How was Brian related to San Diego? She strained in her all-fours mannequin position to see what was going on behind her looking straight down and backwards.

Teenage Emma could barely make out the over-grown over-stuffed animal legs as they were moving back and forth behind her. A dull pain was starting now. It stretched from her groin to her forehead in a throbbing ache like her nerves were crying out in a muffled scream.

With a deafening roar the growling bear trembled and became still. After a few seconds passed something pushed her back over. She settled on her side like a broken doll with her motionless body collapsed into her piles of comforters and stuffed animals.

By accident, she was facing her large silver alarm clock. The cheery smile on Alarm-CO Ltd. Corp. 1992 never faded. Neither did the grin that had been frozen on Emma’s face since her mother closed the door to her girl-child’s bedroom - but her eyes, mercifully, did close.

VI.

When Emma opened her eyes again she was falling.

The water was closer now. But not by much. She may have fallen another five or maybe six feet in the time it took her to recall her deepest ordeal. And if Emma was the type of person to be honest with herself, which she decidly was not, she would have to admit that she didn’t know if it had ever occurred in the first place. After all, what was Edward G Robinson doing plotting a Mafioso style hit on her anyway?

As she scanned her surroundings, she wondered if they were real as well and took quick action.

She slapped herself, hard, directly across the her dour face.

“Ow!” present day Emma squealed as the pain cleared her mind.

It turns out jumping was the astonishing easy part. These bad memories weren’t part of that choice.

143 feet* above the surface of the river (and falling) Emma’s long disturbing history was drowning her.

VII.

Now, she was not falling. She was somewhere else. It was night time.

Emma looked over to her right hand. It haphazardly clutched a wine bottle by the neck.

This is when I decided to do it. Emma remembered with an uncharacteristic clearity.

This is when I decided to get even with ‘em. She thought.

Like a pre-programmed robot, her emaciated body flung open the car door to her beat up Ford Taurus. The door’s hinges groaned and for a second she thought about a head board then wondered why.

Gray smoke poured from underneath the hood of her vehicle. The Taurus sighed and steamed like a vanquished dragon that once breathed fire but now could only belch and hiss in sad broken gurgles.

Emma watched from inside the pre-programmed robot body as it stumbled away from her poor dying Taurus and towards Brent Spence Bridge.

Every few stepped the stumbling robot poured rich scarlet wine into her mouth. Some of it ran down in red streams her chin. She looked like a drunk vampire.

She must have walked quite a way.

When Emma finally got to the bridge her bottle was mostly empty. The green bottle was caked with sweat from her palms and sticky with half-dried wine. To make things worse, twilight was threatening to approach from the east.

In four hours after the evil old Sun rose, she was due in another small county court room to stand in front of another judge. This time it was not to act as State’s Star Witness. This time it was to face charges of Tampering With Evidence, Obstruction Of Justice, several counts of Perjury and a list of assorted felonies regarding the testimony she had been so happy to give of late.

This time, Emma’s burning hatred, a hate she had burned with for so long had, once again, eclipsed her remaining common sense. Her misguided need for revenge swallowed her better judgment in flash of outrage in a way that could send her to a mental hospital or worse: jail.

Emma was facing a minimum of five years according to her lawyer, a nervous looking man in a brown suit. Since she’d been arrested (just imagine the indignity!) and then bailed out by her stone-faced mother, the chilling reality of being caught in her own lies became more and more of a looming reality.

Her mostly empty, sticky wine bottle clattered against the metal mesh work of the bridge as her body trudged towards the center of the bridge. She was lost in her own troubled thoughts.

Up to this catastrophe, Emma had thought of herself as something of an accomplished liar. A bit of a professional if she did say so herself. Since her arrest, and facing serious jail time, she could barely string two words together without sounding like a frightened, deranged child.

In the past few weeks it had been a horrible thing to hear Emma speak.  It caused listeners to wince, as a 33-year-old woman (who looked a hyperactive 47) spoke like a 9-year-old girl.

“Why ya frownin’?” the girl-child’s voice would innocently inquire to her listener, who invariably shuddered with some unseen chill.

Since her felony indictment, people that Emma had devoutly believed that she had deceived and easily fooled as to her true bitterly hate-filled nature heard that child’s voice coming out of her dour, prematurely aged face and, before the first wave of chills struck, were astonished.

It happened at work first.

“What kind of nut are you, lady?” Her boss had asked her when she asked him if he had seen the rapist hiding out in the ladies room.

Her co-workers, safe and invisible in their gray walled cubicles, snickered in their respective areas.

It was clear that they looked at her as some sort of pathetic and badly withered harpy: a wounded thing fatally poisoned by it’s own over-flowing venom to the point where it was reduced to a babbling child.

This was confirmed when her boss fired her. After all, she’d taken a total of 13 weeks of absence (for Medical Reasons) this year and it was her boss’s only real option in dealing with an endlessly absent part-time waitress who was seeing rapists around every corner.

These sharp, clear realizations (so uncharacteristically clear!) crowded in Emma’s swimming skull. She halted at the midpoint of the bridge. Not due to the fact that she at the exact middle of the bridge but because the world that which had been slowly spinning around her field of vision was now threatening to descend into high-velocity spirals.

A sick lurch in her stomach caught her off guard.

Still clutching her red wine bottle Emma leaned over the guard rail separating herself from a 250 foot* nose dive … and ralphed.

Like poisoned cannibal or a vampire taken ill great streams of red undigested wine poured from her gullet into the warm dark of night. It seemed to her as if endless rivers of dark red wine vomited itself up. Tearing wrenching pain shook her emaciated body as she spewed puke from bridge where it landed in hard pops on the river (which was mostly sewage anyhow) far, far below.

Finally, and mercifully the wave of sickness ended with yellow bile running down the side of her wrinkled face. Emma collapsed in a small, cold pile.

“You are not looking so happy right now.” Emma said in her small child’s voice to no one at all.

Time must have passed. It must’ve because the spinning and sickness faded away and Emma rose, unsteadily but surely, on her feet.

Somewhere inside her head she heard a woman’s voice saying: “I remember what happens next.”

In the middle of her episode Emma had managed to keep a hold of her mostly empty wine bottle. Only now it seemed ridiculous to her. An insult somehow that this bottle remained unchanged and unbroken while she herself had endured such a unendurable trauma.

Her eyes narrowed into ferocious slits. Her anger poured out of her, sobering her, steeling her small shaking body.

With a quick jerk that belayed her drunken stupor Emma flung the wine bottle over the edge of the guard rail unceremoniously. It sailed soundlessly in the thick night air following the same slow arc as her vomit until it slipped into formlessness, eaten by the hungry darkness.

In this moment, Emma remembered what she had stumbled all this way to do. She remembered why she had left her Taurus, why she was so drunk. The dawning awareness of her impending suicide pushed the alcohol in her system away from her murky thoughts with a simplified clarity.

The perfect poetry of gravity would surely undo all of the terrible wrongs done to her.

Five years in a jail cell or a strapped down in a padded room? This would only make her enemies look happy. Not to mention her rapist step-brother, Brian.

They’d all be so, so sorry. Imagining her estranged family, co-workers and aquiantances wracked with uncontrollable grief brought a pinched grin to her bleached catcher’s mitt of a face as she examined the river far below.

After drunkenly her friends and family’s inevitable misery from losing such an amazing person like herself and the huge rush of self-pity that this image inspired ( Oh-poor-Emma-we-were-so-wrong!) she committed herself mentally to the jump.

VIII.

Putting both hands on the metal railing Emma began awkwardly ambling over the edge. Her mid was filled with tragedy struck mourner sobbing over her beautiful corpse (that they’d better not touch!).

Not a car or a truck or even a lost bicyclist crossed the bridge to disturb Emma’s sweet, sweet vengeance. It was clear that the city was poised and ready to be punished for it’s brutality towards her personally. The world itself stopped, wanted nothing to interrupt or delay what was coming next.

So as Emma passed, with some drunken difficulty, over the metal guard railing she found just enough room on the other side for her feet to find an unsteady purchase.

Emma stared straight ahead concentrating on her final revenge savoring every last second of it. There was nothing ahead of her but miles of lazily snaking river. And there was nothing below but blessed emptiness to hold her.

The traces of twilight sky faded as the first rays of daylight emerged from the darkness. The chalky amber and reddish lights the dotted the riverside began to simultaneously wink out.

“This is it.” Emma said.

 Her child’s voice was momentarily gone and it was a grown woman’s voice which reassured and soothed her in her final moments.

She was determined that no EVER expose her lies. And definitely not a mean old judge in the same small county court room she had used to punish her enemies within. No, that would not stand. Not for a second.

Standing precariously on the edge of the bridge’s metal framework Emma knew that these charges would surely destroy her. This was her only way out.

The man whose lies she had told, under oath and before Almighty God (haha! whose that old dirty bird she had thought) were meant to punish and put in prison - had somehow been freed, cleared of the crimes that she alone had accused him of.

Later, she was told, by her lawyer in the ratty brown suit, that the emails that she so carefully forged in secret and the conflicting details of her sworn testimony had come to light.

“Glaring discrepancies” was what her lawyer had characterized these so called “errors” as. Discrepancies like wrong dates, wrong times and even incorrect email addresses that could have been sent or received from any machine on planet Earth with the most basic Internet access.

“Duh!” Emma had thought to herself as her lawyer continued to speak about appeal outcomes, trial dates followed up by asking her if she had any plans to leave town anytime soon.

The man had only been in prison three years! She thought angrily.

Then, these “discrepancies” emerged and a lot of uncomfortable questions began to be asked by the wrong people.

In her blurry mind’s eye, Emma watched her lies unravel as the man, a person who was so hurtful to her as to not call her immediately after a casual date, was now the witness against her.

Although he had never directly said anything to hurt or had threatened her or physically hurt her Emma was convinced, after he stopped seeing her, that he was secretly dangerous. It was something in the warmth of his smile.

Something in the way he listened to her, even when she felt crazier than usual, that sewed it up for her - long before she started speaking like a 9-year-old child.

This man is a bad man! Her thoughts had warned her in her small voice as the man opened the door to her 3rd story apartment and smiled warmly at her.

This man wants to hurt me! Her girl-child voice had screamed from inside her head.

Yet something in the way he kissed her goodnight made Emma want to let him touch her, to trust this man. That night ended with Emma safely at home and the man quietly and happily driving to his own home on the other side of town.

However, that’s not what exactly into the official police report. Reports that were filed many months later. Reports that ended up sending the secretly dangerous man to prison for three violent and lonely years. None of these facts made it into the sworn affa davits that a crying and hysterical Emma filed while pouring ceaseless rivers of crocodile tears.

And now, standing with her bony heels on the metal landing and her toes hovering over nothingness she felt a slight morning breeze stir up her hair and play along her ruffled clothing.

A stray pang of guilt, out of character for a narcissistic paranoid schizophrenic but not completely unheard of, quite nearly interrupted her self-righteous reverie.

Tiny streaks of white hair buzzed around her dour face. The spider-webs of wrinkles that radiated from her mouth, eyes and forehead contorted in psychic pain as she pushed away any trace of responsibility from her mind.

“I won’t let any of them hurt me...” Emma declared having quickly wrestled away any sense of remorse for the crimes she was due to face.

And, with an absurd serenity that overtakes the insane and the suicidal, Emma leaned forward into oblivion.

IX.

“I’m not an only child, Dr, Gene.” Emma said, with a withering glare.

“I understand, Emma. We’ve talked a great deal about Brian today. As a matter of fact, we’ve talked a great deal about Brian every day for the quite some time haven’t we?” asked a old man with a shiny bald head and patrician’s beard.

The man spoke in the practiced, measured of Psychiatric professional worldwide. A tone that reassured the listener that All-Is-Well-With-The-World and, alternately that, You Aren’t Really That Crazy. He usually said things like this while picking at stray lint from his wool sweater.

There was a pause in the session as the bald man hastily wrote in a rectangular yellow tablet. This made Emma wonder what it was that he was scribbling. She decided it was probably mumbo-jumbo. Doctor mumbo-jumbo.

During the pause, Emma noticed that the thick books lining the wrap around shelves looked really boring and also that she had to pee.

“I love him, Dr. Gene, but he hurt me when I was little.”

Her headshrinkers eye’s warily drifted up from his yellow tablet. Reaching in his pocket for another smaller one he appeared to be making his final surrender to Emma’s incurable paranoia and delusion.

The small tablet he produced (which was green) had the word “RX” printed on the bottom.

Emma, a 30 year old college drop out and patient of Dr, Gene’s for 7 years, hated RX.

Dr. Gene, made no attempt to mask a heavy sigh as he wrote out the usual series of prescriptions for Emma’s doses of anti-psychotic medication.

“Seven years, Emma. Seven years.” Dr Gene said, mostly to his small green tablet.

“That’s how long we’ve known each other, isn’t it?” he asked in as nonchalant as his frustration would allow him.

“Um. Yeah, Dr. Gene. I’m so much better, now.” Emma said, seemingly confidant in the eventuality her completely total rehabilitation.

“Please have this filled this week, Emma.” Dr. Gene said.

Emma looked over the RX.

“Mmmmm. V-Bars, huh, Dr. Gene? They remind me of Brian.” She said her perkiest voice.

“Remember, next time we’ll talk less about Brian and more about this young man you’ve met.” the headshrinker said with a professional smile free of all genuine human warmth.

“OK, but Brian’s flying me out to San Diego so we’d better do that soon. He’s still trying to right old wrongs with me.” she said as her perkiest voice as it began to lose it’s luster.

“That’s fine, Emma. Why don’t you wait to tell this young man and Brian about each other until after our next session?” Dr. Gene said, his own expression and tone unwavering.

“I’ll try to Dr. Gene but I tell Brian everything.” Emma said.

As Emma closed the glass door, she didn’t notice Dr. Gene rubbing his temples ferociously. She was busy looking at the RX and wondering if Brian would want some of her meds.

Looking up from the small green sheet of paper she noticed that she was descending at 600 miles an hour into the Ohio River.

X.

For a fraction of a second Emma returned to the scene of her suicide three years later. In that fraction of a second, she fell like stone and aimed towards the river. Her thin arms outstretched and her clothing catching the wind. Her clothing ripped along her emaciated body like a parachute that failed to properly deploy.

In her panic, her mind retreated even further into itself holding onto the memory of Dr. Gene until the river below disappeared.

She willed her mind into a total denial of her enviroment until she physically reappeared just outside his office  right outside the glass door she had walked out of for the final time three years prior.

And there she stood, remembering her shrink, crazy old Dr. Eugene F. Herberts (PMH-MP, M.D and to top it off a card carrying member of the ACLU that old pinko) she pitied him. He was so mixed up about stuff.

She looked at him through the door. He was busy with his mixed up doctor thoughts and his scribbling on his yellow and green tablets.

What a mixed up guy. She thought and turned away.

After her final session with Dr. Gene and date that followed with her new young man, Brian had told her what she had already known in the first place: that the young man was terribly dangerous. Furthermore, she had to do everything she could to protect herself from him.

Soon after, “doing everything she could to protect herself” became her new motto. She liked the way it made her feel, mainly. This coming long after being abused and traumatized by her cruel step-brother as a child. Now she was now able to not only protect herself - but avenge herself.

It was a very empowering feeling. This was a feeling thatshe wanted a lot more of!

Brian went on, in great detail, about what exactly she should say and do to ensure that Emma can do-everything-she-could-to-protect-herself. He suggested that she tell police anything that she-could-to-protect-herself. And, as usual, he apologized profusely for the terrible mistakes he had made with her when they were teenagers.

That same night, after she and Brian had talked (Brian was so right too) Emma went straight to the police department where she filled out form after form concerning about frightened she was of the young man.

The police, in spite of having do evidence or any other witnesses to coraborate Emma’s claims, were more than happy to drive across the city and put the man in jail. They even put him in with real Rapists and real Murderers. All the while Emma felt very respected and above all very much avenged.

Many months later, in a small county court room, she made sure to act as helpless and frightened as she was able. It was surprisingly easy for her.

The over-worked city Prosecutor (who trembled a bit with the coffee jitters) smiled a tight smile at Emma and told her everything was going to be alright. She told Emma that the man would never hurt Emma ever again. And Emma felt really good. She dabbed a ruffled Kleenex at her eyes which were red and puffy. She looked very very upset - which was perfect.

When the city Prosecutor offered her a fresh tissue she blubbered an exaggerated thank you and collapse into tears.

Although Emma knew this Emma had not attempted to Rape her (he had only kissed her one time - haha!) or told her that he was going to Murder her (unless telling her that he liked her counted - haha on you, you old meanie) she told herself that it was all for the best and that she-had-to-do-everything-in-her-power-to-protect-herself from this secretly dangerous person.

When the judge’s gavel fell the man was pronounced guilty as charged.

Now Emma’s crying erupted into great shaking fits and she was afraid that maybe she was laying it on a little too thick. The judge’s stone faced expression melted by a degree or two and announced the sentence:

“The defendant is hereby sentenced to 25 years to Life. Due to the extreme callousness, the sheer brutality of the crimes he has committed - this tern is to be served without the possibility or  eligibility for Parole. Take him away, bailiff.”

With that Emma, while another bailiff escorted the young man out of the small county court room and into his new life in a maximum security prison, wailed a final terrible wail. Her great echoing sob emitted from endless depths of her tormented being slung bright yellow snot and strands of semi-transparent mucus onto the bailiff as she made her show of terrible sorrow and pain.

Every face in the court was horrified by the crime that the man had been convicted of. As she was led out into the hallway everyone gathered was very sympathetic towards poor Emma. Poor Emma, who had come so very close to being raped and murdered by a dangerous man. A dangerous man who was, unknown to all, fast asleep in his bed many and miles away from Emma at that time dreaming of things that men in love dream of.

XI.

Trouble had started almost instantly afterward.

Although the young man’s lawyer was laughable, a young nervous man whose defense of his client involved stifling errant yawns and checking important text messages on his over-sized cellphone during the brief proceeding (I WAN U BABY X OXOX), the man at the center of the Attempted Rape and Murder trial was not as laughable.

In fact, the man had made a lot of trouble as to the credibility of Emma’s testimony even going so far as to question the glaring lack of evidence and witnesses from a conviction that resulted in his 25-year prison sentence.

Over the course of the years, the young man filed one legal motion after another until, in court he didn’t look so much like a young man any more - he looked old, tired. Sometime he would read the brief to the judge (much to Emma’s secret joy) with split lips or black eyes. Once he re-read the Bill Of Particulars with an eye so blackened that the entire eye was a red slot slit in his face.

Haha! Emma thought as she watched the man spend month after month to get out of prison. She showed up to every proceeding in order to enjoy her revenge on the secretly dangerous man.

After a few years, the man’s legal wrangling must have done some sort of good because she received a phone call from the same city Prosecutor who had given her Kleenex and sympathy in her time of need during the original trial.

“Miss, I think we may need to talk about a few things.” was what the city Prosecutor had said.

But what Emma heard was: “We know you are lying.”

Emma panicked. Weeks later, when she finally met with the city Prosecutor none of her answers made seemed to make any sense. Three years after the trial she could barely remember what she told them in the first place.

The city Prosecutor’s face grew hard and stern as Emma fumbled, cried and finally refused to speak at all.

At the end of the meeting a man in black sport coat and red tie came. The man put handcuffs on Emma. Emma was in shock. She had never EVER been in handcuffs before.

As she was led down into the bowels of the jail she passed the young man who her lies had imprisoned. The young man now looked like a old man. For a second, how unlikely their eyes met. Emma searched the man’s eyes looking for something that said he was gloating, that he was enjoying his revenge upon her - but nothing was there but pity.

Pity for her.

Down into hidden stairways, stairways that led down into the smell of cheap anti-septic and where every sound seemed to echo and betray fear, the man in the black sport coat led Emma. They passed by silent rows of mean faced men, men with close cropped hair and pencil thin moustaches than could have all been cloned from the same convict except for their odd collection of facial tattoos that all seemed to have been gougded into their skulls in ball point pen.

Although these silent rows of men said nothing she felt herself being slowly tortured to death in the heat of their stares.

When they had descended into the lowest level of the county jail the man ordered her to stop. A loud buzzing and click sounded and heavy door opened before her.

They had arrived.

A metal re-enforced bulletproof door opened to a filthy holding cell. The man in black sport coat shoved her into the female inmates with business like formality. Emma drifted over to metal bench and rubbed at the deep, red impressions the handcuffs had left in her wrists. She began to sob.

The inmates inside were even filthier than the cell. She looked up at them.  They leered at her with naked contempt.

“You lick, pussy bitch?” asked a husky black female who bore more than a passing resemblance to a mountain gorilla.

“Hell yeah, she lick pussy!” answered another inmate for her.

“We gonna be homies, bitch.” Mountain gorilla decreed with a toothless grin.

 Sitting down and one draped a big gorilla arm around Emma’s frail shoulder.

Emma screamed.

She screamed and screamed but no one came. Then, she cried and cried but no one came.

No matter how much she cried - no one would let her go home. No one understood how special and poetic Emma was. No one understood how it was all a mistake. A bad joke.

Instead, the County deputies stared coldly at her and wondered aloud who she was screaming at in her empty holding cell.

“That’s an ISO cell for a reason, Bubba-roo.” One of the older, burly male guards advised a young deputy who stared at Emma.

Emma thought that he looked the young deputy looked at her with with something not unlike pity in his eyes.

XII.

Things got worse from there.

She tried calling Brian but no one would answer. Instead she got voice mail for someone named Doug. She tried to explain, in detail, to Doug’s voice mail all about what happened to her but a annoying beep signalled the end of her one phone call.

The deputies took her to another cell. This one was much larger and their were phones she could use anytime she wanted, as long as she waited in line with the other female inmates.

Emma, when it was her turn to use the phone, thought about calling her parents later but then remembered that they never recognized her genius and could rot in hell. She thought about Dr. Gene and then decided he too could rot in hell for being so mixed up about her.

Finally an acquaintance from her old job answered his phone.

“I’ll do anything Jeff. Anything.” Emma promised.

Her acquaintance Jeff, a regular snake-in-the-grass in his own right, sprung into action and had her out on bail less than 24 hours later.

At his small downtown apartment Emma went right to the telephone. Try as she could she could not get a hold of Brian. He was not answering his phone. Instead she re-explained everything to Doug’s voicemail and settled for giving Jeff a quick hand job.

Her first day out of jail was less than productive.

The next morning Emma got on a city bus that would take her close to her home and the safety and security of her third story apartment where she would put gorilla women and giving half-hearted hand-jobs to strangers right out of her head.

On the nearly deserted city bus (that smelled!) she began to feel like someone was watching her. As the bus shuddered to a halt at each stop, Emma could not shake the feeling that she was being watched. As she wondered how this had happened to her she caught something at the end of the bus looking at her but she dared not look back at it.

Forcing the panic back deep inside she picked up a newspaper and pretended to read it.

From the corner of her eye, she caught the outline of the shape that was looking at her. The shape was strange. Not like a man. It had a too big, too round head with big round ears and it looked …. fluffy? Was that …?

She looked over the newspaper towards the shape. It was gone. It must have moved. Instead, an elderly woman brushed lint from her flower print dress and smiled back at her.

I’m very, very worried. Emma thought to herself.

Emma went back to pretending to read her newspaper and missed her stop by three blocks.

When she got home she practically ran up the stairs to her apartment. There were no messages on her answering machine or on her phone urgently waiting for her as she expected and deserved. Nothing at all.

Word of her arrest must have spread fast. She thought.

No one, not even Brian (or Doug!) wanted anything to do with her now. It was over.

It was all over.

She had looked at the slip of paper the jail had given her on her release where a trial date was printed and began to worry.

She worried about the very real possibility of going to jail where gorilla women happily did unspeakable things to each other. She worried that her heart would beat too fast and then she would die when the door locked her in another jail cell.

Mainly, she worried about the young man whose lies had put in jail. She worried that he would find her in her apartment. She worried that he would “get” her there now that he was a free man. Free to exact the kind of revenge she saw in the silent rows of men’s hate-filled eyes.

He’d fooled the police, the judge, and her acquaintances but he couldn’t fool Brian and he didn’t fool her. Although the very worried Emma did not realize it the man she desperately terrified of and was convinced was going to murder her in short order was hundreds of miles away. The man, who was indeed a free man, was reunited with a family he hadn’t seen for many hard years. Emma was the last thing on his mind as his father hugged him and his mother cried tears of joy.

To Emma, the man could be right outside of her apartment (maybe in the hallway?) waiting to attack her. Knowing this, how could she stay there? He would know right where to find her.

Cautiously, and long after all the light in her apartment went out, Emma carefully crept out of her apartment, tip toed down the three flights of stairs and into the darkness.She silently approached her beat up Ford Taurus ready for something to strike out at her from the bushes or lunge from around a blind corner but nothing did.

Slowly opening the passenger side door and panting with a cold fear she slid into her car. The door creaked shut betraying her escape and she looked around to see which way the man would attack from. It was all she could do to get he doors electronically locked before he struck.

Emma imagined that he was just out of sight stalking her like a hungry wolf. Watching her with giant yellow moons for eyes, his long red tongue dangling sloppily out of his mouth, smelling her.

The Taurus roared to life and she continually scanned all directions for the man. In heat of her fear she turned the key again, not realizing the car was already running. Metal gears clanging together scared the hell out of her and she jammed the sedan into Drive. The car took off on a reckless tear down her street narrowly dodging the long lines of parked vehicles as she zig-zagged along the road.

She spent more time looking around the road than at the road - looking for the murderous, vengeful young man. Just outside the glare of her headlights she was sure that she saw a blur of indistinct shapes. Shapes that looked like they were looking right back at her.

Sometimes these shapes looked like the young man. A man angrily staring back at her, right through her windshield, from the cracked trash covered city sidewalk. Other times, she saw what looked like the outline of a giant stuffed teddy bear’s head. A too round, too big head that was mostly concealed behind trashcans or behind parked cars. The shapes always disappeared or turned into mailboxes when she looked too closely.

Emma was more afraid then she had ever EVER been. Before she knew where she was driving to she pulled into a drive-through liquor store. A bright yellow ball hovering ethereally over the wide open entrance announced that she had arrived in style at “Drive N Drink #134”.

Badly distracted, Emma nearly ran over a display that announced to the wine cooler appreciating public the multitude of health benefits that came with drinking Ingram’s Extra Golden Wine Coolers.  

Emma didn’t care much for a multitude of health benefits much at this point being directly out of her ever-lovin’ mind and all. In fact, she wanted something that would do the opposite of adding a healthy golden luster to frame of mind - she wanted to nuke her brain completely.

She scanned her rear view mirror and thought that she almost caught sight of a giant too round head watching her from across the street - right behind a cast iron fence.

Without having the foggiest notion of what she was about to order (short of a liquid lobotomy) Emma frantically searched, from the relative safety of her Taurus, for whoever was responsible for boozing up late night motorists-in-a-hurry at good old Drive N Drink #134.

“Gimme two bottle of red wine!” Emma barked. It was the sound of a 9-year-old announcing a tantrum.

The attendant, a middle aged man sporting a graying pompadour, dutifully dug two wine bottle out of a cooler and handed them over.

“That’ll be $10.45 American, ma’am.” The attendant croaked.

Emma couldn’t make eye contact with the man as she searched the Taurus’s mirrors for a sign of the dangerous man or the too round head that was stalking her. Accidentally, Emma caught sight of her face. A frozen scarecrow grin was fixed on her dour, prematurely aged face.

I’m ruined. It really is over. She thought and it was this exact thought that dissolved that last remaining but of her battered sanity.

Losing control of her fears, she began to imagine that her car was filled with hundreds of silver alarm clocks - each one ticking and grinning as nice as can be. Keeping it own time. Only these gleeful smiling bastard were winding down. Counting off time and moving backwards.

“Tick-tock” Emma crowed and the remark was very, very humorous to her.

She turned her attention away from mirrors and imaginary clocks and towards not so imaginary liquor store personnel.

“What? Lady it’s $10.45. No dough, no booze.” The attendant said reaching into the car for the wine.

“Thock-Thock!” Emma said her eyes darting around the attendant’s confused face.

Instead of money Emma reached out and handed the man pill bottles. She scooped out bottle after bottle piling them into the man’s arms until he could barely hold them all. He looked more confused than ever.

“Keep the change! Tick tock!” Emma whooped, pressing her one remaining pill bottle back into her purse.

To her horror, horror that breached a state of mind that could be only be described as totally insane, a giant furry hand reached out from her purse and reached for her. With terrifying strength the paw-hand grasped her own and pulling it down into the purse - threatening to pull her entire arm off and far down into a nightmare world that lives in the extra-dimensional space hiding within crazy women’s purses.

Screaming in sudden terror she tore free of the paw-hand.

“Aw, that’s it. I quit.” said the attendant pressing the bottles into his pockets and began to storm angrily off.

“Wait!” Emma’s child voice begged.

Emma look back to the purse and the furry paw-hand that now beckoned, dangled a $20 dollar bill from her purse. The four-fingered hand offered her the money which she snatched and threw at the fuming attendant.

She pressed the wine bottle firmly in the pile of silver alarm clocks, slammed the Taurus back into Drive knocked the attendant to the ground with her rear quarter panel. The attendant, who had landed hard against the cold concrete flooring with a number of broken bones and massive internal bleeding, lay motionless in a pile of pills and blood staring up at the ceiling of Drive N Drink #134.

He wanted to shout but found, when he opened his mouth, that he couldn’t make a sound. Instead, he looked over at the money clutched in his hand and found that it wasn’t money at all.

In his perfectly still hand, was a old frayed picture of 19-year-old girl taken sometime in the 70’s. The girl was in a hospital gown and who sat in a wheelchair smiling an impossibly wide smile. On her lap was a stuffed bear. His last earthly sight was of a small stuffed bear grinning the same wide gleeful smile as the girl in the photo.

XIII.

CRASH!

Emma’s thin body hit the surface of the water of the river, far below the metal bridge, snapping velocity splintering most of her internal organs on impact. Her legs shattered like dry chicken bones and all of her vertebrae were pulverized but she did not die immediately.

As her broken doll body drifted down into the murky deep, air bubbles like small, round diamonds floated free from her mouth and nose. Her frozen grin never broke as she began to drown.

And then she died.

THE END